Effects in Childhood
Animal studies report that rats that have been exposed to maternal grooming (ie, positive physical affection by the mother) have lower stress hormone levels in adulthood. Depressed or aggressive mothers are particularly powerful sources of stress in children, even more important than poverty or overcrowding. Children are frequent victims of stress because they are often unable to communicate their feelings accurately or their responses to events over which they have no control.
- Adolescent boys and girls experience equal amounts of stress, but the source and effects may differ.
- Girls tend to become stressed from interpersonal situations, and stress is more likely to lead to Depression in girls than in boys.
For boys, one study suggested events such as changing schools or poor grades are the most important sources of stress. Another indicated, however, that the probability of childhood behavioral difficulties in a boy is increased with the number and type of stressors encountered in the home.
Stress in the Elderly
As people age, the ability to achieve a relaxation response after a stressful event becomes more difficult. Aging may simply wear out the systems in the brain that respond to stress, so that they become inefficient. The elderly, too, are very often exposed to major stressors such as medical problems, the loss of a spouse and friends, a change in a living situation, and financial worries.
Revision date: July 6, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD